May 2nd, 2009
May 2nd, 2009
Today, Obama adviser Samantha Powers resigned after calling Hillary Clinton a “monster,” and failing in her take-back. Marc Cooper reminds us who Samantha Powers is, and of her intimate knowledge of the amoral nature of the Bill Clinton administration that did nothing but carefully avoid the word “genocide” when confronted with the death of over 800,000 in Rwanda. As Cooper also reminds us, Bill Clinton got to have another of those carefully orchestrated Clinton tearful moments mouthing “I’m sorr” years later:
Clinton, Genocide and a Campaign Gaffe
by Marc Cooper
The Barack Obama campaign is about to pay a very high price for the inopportune words of one of its most distinguished foreign policy advisors. The dazzlingly brilliant journalist, Pulitzer-prize winning author, and Harvard professor, Samantha Power, has been forced to resign from the campaign after she recklessly told a reporter that Hillary Clinton is a “monster.”
In the pungently hypocritical game of American politics, this is just something outside the rules. Whether it’s true, or not, matters little. Nor does it matter that the object of Power’s derision has just finished spending millions on TV ads implying that Obama would be responsible for the countless deaths of millions of American children sleeping at 3 a.m. Tut, tut. Nothing monstrous about that.
Power was rightfully awarded the Pulitzer for her finely written and downright horrifying book “A Problem From Hell” which, in macabre detail, describes the calculated indifference of the Clinton administration when 800,000 Rwandans were being systematically butchered. The red phone rang and rang and rang again. I don’t know where Hillary was then. But her husband and his entire experienced foreign policy team – from the brass in the Pentagon to the congenitally feckless Secretary of State Warren Christopher – just let it ring.
And as more than one researcher has amply documented the case, the bloody paralysis of the Clinton administration in the face of the Rwandan genocide owed not at all to a lack of information, but rather to a lack of will. A reviewer of Power’s book for The New York Times, perhaps summed it up best, saying that the picture of Clinton that emerges from this reading is that of an “amoral narcissist.”
Former Canadian General Romeo Dallaire, who commanded the UN forces in Rwanda at the time of the genocide, tells us a similar story in his own memoir. General Dallaire recounts how, at the height of the Rwandan holocaust, he got a phone call from a Clinton administration staffer who wanted to know how many Rwandans had already died, how many were refugees and how many were internally displaced. Writes Dallaire: “He told me that his estimates indicated that it would take the deaths of 85,000 Rwandans to justify the risking of the life of one American soldier.” Eventually, ten times that many would die. And our response? A handful of years later, at a photo-op stopover in Kigali airport, Bill Clinton bit his lip and said he was sorry.
Therein resides the richest and saddest irony of all. Samantha Power has actually lived the sort of life that Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff has, for public consumption, invented for its candidate. Though not quite 40 years old, Power has spent no time on any Wal-Mart boards but has rather dedicated her entire adult life rather tirelessly to championing humanitarian causes. She has spoken up when others were silent. She took great personal risks during the Balkan wars to witness and record and denounce the carnage (She reported that Bill Clinton intervened against the Serbs only when he felt he was losing personal credibility as a result of his inaction. “I’m getting creamed,” Power quoted the then-President saying as he fretted over global consternation over his own hesitation to act).
We gave Power the Pulitzer for exposing the, well, monstrous indifference of the Clinton administration as it stared unblinkingly and immobile into the face of massive horror. But we give her a kick in the backside and throw her out the door when she has the temerity to publicly restate all that in one impolite word. Monstrous, indeed.
1 comment March 7th, 2008
Wikileaks has a new Editorial on the crisis in Kenya that provides useful background on the struggle there and a perspective on the way forward. [Clearly some of those affiliated with Wikileaks are Kenyan]:
An American Solution to the Kenyan Constitutional Crisis
Wikileaks EDITORIAL (Kenya)
Kenya is home to more than 70 ethnic groups of different origins but with a long history of interaction. Most were already here when the colonialists arrived towards the end of the nineteenth century. In pre-colonial times, these ethnic groups all had historical connections to groups outside present-day Kenya:
The pre-colonial peoples of Kenya
The ethnic groups making up the black African population represented in Kenya fall under four main language divisions:
- The Bantu
- The Western Nilotes
- The Eastern and Southern Nilotes
- The Cushites
The groups can further be broken down into so-called tribes. Tribalism is primitive in a Globalised world and has no place in Kenya today.
The Independent peoples of Kenya
The Constitution Of Kenya carries the definition of a Kenyan Citizen in Chapter V1. There is a clear definition of a KENYAN citizen and no reference whatsoever to any ethnic group. All ethnic groups are Kenyans and all are equal under the Constitution of Kenya. For Kenya’s black communities to see themselves as Kenyan, they must also learn to see the other communities as equally Kenyan too. Nonetheless sensitive issues remain, such as land and the economic, political and educational privileges historically enjoyed by certain communities.
Kenya is a Democracy
The word democracy comes from the Greek demokratia, from demos, ‘the people,’ and kratein, ‘to rule’, and it means simply ‘rule by the people’. Democracy in its broadest sense thus means a way of governing based on people’s consent or the ‘will of the people’. It stands for the welfare of all and for the common good. The basic rules of democracy include recognition of the fact that power belongs to the citizens and the importance of achieving the following goals:
- the greatest possible freedom for all;
- a just society;
- the same rules for all;
- equality before the law;
- respect for the rule of law; and
- equal opportunities for all.
In a democracy, people rule themselves either directly or indirectly through their representatives. In a democracy, a high degree of political legitimacy is therefore necessary, because the electoral process periodically divides the population into ‘winners’ and ‘losers’. A successful democratic political culture implies that the losing parties and their supporters accept the judgment of the voters, and allow for the peaceful transfer of power – the concept of a ‘loyal opposition’
There are various ways in which different societies and governments seek to achieve democracy as an ideal. In some cases, people are involved directly in making decisions about public affairs. In other cases, people choose representatives to act on their behalf.
In direct democracy, the people themselves directly express their will on public issues. Direct democracy can also be described as participatory democracy as it involves all citizens in making decisions on public matters. Each person is given the opportunity to take part in making public decisions directly. People do not need to delegate that right to another person – or a representative – who represents their choices. The best example of participatory democracy is where citizens vote in a referendum. A referendum is a direct vote by all the citizens to decide on a political matter of national importance. For instance, a referendum can be used to decide whether to adopt or reject a new constitution, as happened in Kenya in November 2005.
Since, it is practically impossible to gather all the citizens of Kenya together to play a part of government, the function of Government must be performed by a number of individuals smaller than the totality of its citizens. An election is the chief basis of political legitimacy. The General election is the platform that we use to select a few Kenyan citizens to the National Assembly in order to represent our interests and perform the function of Government. The Members of Parliament are elected by the Kenyan citizens to watch over their interests and to, either form or check Government. This is indirect Democracy. In indirect democracy, people elect their representatives periodically to govern on their behalf and to specifically express people’s feelings on public issues. The state in this form of democracy is not directly governed by the people themselves but by their representatives. This form of democracy is practised in the modern nation-states because they are large in area and in population. Their structures and problems are also complex and varied. It is difficult to involve everybody in such a situation. As a form of indirect democracy, representative democracy requires individuals to elect other persons to exercise power and make decisions on their behalf. A person exercises his or her power through a representative. Kenyans elect their representatives every five years to govern on their behalf and to specifically express people’s feelings on public issues.
But, a democratic Kenya cannot survive, unless the people of Kenya feel that they can affect their system of Government and see all their preferences enacted. Nothing could be more important. Power must at all times; be exercised by the citizens of the Republic of Kenya, rather than the president!. Power can only be exercised by the citizens where the will of the people is seen to be done.
The problem with this country, lies in the fact, that we as citizens have for 43 years been elevating unqualified citizens to public office. The risks we have taken have resulted in Incompetence and Greed! We are responsible for creating a breed of Kenyan politicians who are not at all serious about the electoral process and the meaning of the phrase political accountability. These Politicians are not only low, uncouth, immoral individuals but also clearly visionless. These people have without any regard taken away one by one, all our Individual Rights guaranteed to all Kenyans under our Constitution in the pretext of exercising our mandate.
The Bill of Rights
The Constitution of Kenya under chapter V guarantees all Kenyans the Bill of Rights. NO ONE HAS THE POWER OR AUTHORITY BY LAW TO TAKE AWAY THESE RIGHTS FROM KENYANS. Any attempt to do so is unconstitutional, treasonable and punishable by death, as it amounts to a subversion of our Constitution.
Civil Rights upheld in the Constitution of Kenya
- The right to life,
- The right to personal freedom,
- Protection against slavery and forced labour,
- Protection from inhuman treatment,
- Protection from property being taken away illegally,
- Protection against illegal search or entry,
- The right to the protection of the law,
- Freedom of conscience,
- Freedom of expression,
- Freedom of association and assembly,
- Freedom of movement, and
- Freedom from discrimination.
This means that all Kenyans have—
- hold your own views and talk about what you think and believe,
- associate and meet with others, and
- move freely without hindrance.
- the ability to own and use property,
- the chance to work and provide for your livelihood, and
- freedom from forced labour and slavery.
- the fair treatment of all citizens,
- no interference with one’s body, premises or private life, and
- no inhuman treatment.
In a democracy, all people are seen as having been born equal and are treated equally before the law. Democracy rejects any form of discrimination among people and provides a framework for justice, fairness and equality. Justice is a set of rules that provide each person and/or groups in society with basic rights. These include:
- Human rights,
- The rule of law,
- Economic justice, and
- Gender equity.
The current Administration is abusing these rules even though Kenya has ratified several United Nations conventions on human rights, among them:
- The International Convention on Civil and Political Rights;
- The International Convention on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights;
- The Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment;
- The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women;
- The Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The concept of the ‘rule of law’ is based on the idea of government by law. This means that no person is above the law. That is to say, all citizens (from the President to the lowliest Kenyan) are subject to and equal before the law. It means that no person can suffer punishment unless that person has broken the law and is rightly judged through the established judicial process. Leaders, too, must exercise their powers according to laid down law. Anybody who makes a decision must do so within the law. For example: The Constitution Of Kenya provides for freedom of assembly, and the government is bound by this rule. It cannot prevent a public meeting simply because it dislikes or disagrees with the views of those responsible for calling that meeting. Government officers must first obtain a court order before preventing a meeting from taking place.
Controlling the Abuse and exercise of political power
The state has legitimate power to control and influence actions within its borders. The principal organs (called arms of the government) through which the government exercises its powers are:
- The Legislature: that makes policies and laws and also supervises the work of the Executive;
- The Executive: that carries out the policies and laws passed by the Legislature; the institution that runs the government;
- The Judiciary: that interprets and applies the laws passed by the Legislature and deals with any disputes that occur within the state.
The principle of separation of powers sets limits on the work of the Judiciary, the Legislature and the Executive. It provides the checks and balances that prevent misuse of power by any of the three arms of government. The principle of separation of powers requires that:
- There should be the least possible overlap in the powers and functions of the different arms of government;
- There should be no overlap of staff in the different arms of government;
- No arm of government should interfere with the functions and work of any of the other arms; and
- No arm of government should be more powerful than any of the others.
But is this the case in Kenya today? No it is not. Why?
Checks and balances are mechanisms to make sure that no part of the government has too much power, or goes beyond its functions, and that each arm of the government can check the misuse of power by the other arms of the government. Examples of the checks and balances contained in the Constitution of Kenya are:
- The President, as head of the executive, can reject a Bill passed by Parliament, although Parliament may override the President’s decision with a second vote.
- The Judiciary can cancel laws passed by Parliament if these laws are not in line with the Constitution.
- The Judiciary can cancel any action by the Executive if this action is not in line with the law or with the rules of natural justice.
- The Executive has to get permission, by asking Parliament to pass the national budget, to use public money for administration.
- The President cannot dismiss a judge from office unless a tribunal has been appointed to investigate and recommend an action against the judge.
The act by Kibaki to steal the election and swear himself into Office was the ultimate Act of Corruption. That of Abuse of Power for personal gain. The check for this action would have been that the Judiciary can cancel any action by the Executive if this action is not in line with the law or with the rules of natural justice. But rather than this course of action the Judiciary swore Kibaki into Office, following his illegal declaration as winner of the Presidential Election. Here the principle of separation of powers between the executive and judicial functions of the government has not been applied leaving Kenyans with very few options.
Will it be Kenyans that set the democratic agenda?
A democracy represents the ‘will of the people” We went to the polls, voted peacefully and weeks later, we still do not know who won the election. What we do know is that Kenyans are killing Kenyans, the Police are killing Kenyans, The country is on fire and our Constitutions seems to have been suspended by Kibaki who seems to be ruling by decree! We have lost every single one of our Constitutional Rights. So, What is the way forward?
We declare ourselves Independent from Constitutional office bearers who have abused the Constitution and refuse to be governed by them by cutting all ties. How?
We try going the American Way. Drafted by Thomas Jefferson between June 11 and June 28, 1776, the Declaration of Independence is at once the nation’s most cherished symbol of liberty and Jefferson’s most enduring monument. Here, in exalted and unforgettable phrases, Jefferson expressed the convictions in the minds and hearts of the American people. The political philosophy of the Declaration was not new; its ideals of individual liberty had already been expressed by John Locke and the Continental philosophers. What Jefferson did was to summarize this philosophy in “self-evident truths” and set forth a list of grievances against the King in order to justify before the world the breaking of ties between the colonies and the mother country. The American Declaration of Independence, opens with a preamble describing the document’s necessity in explaining why the colonies have overthrown their ruler and chosen to take their place as a separate nation in the world. All men are created equal and there are certain unalienable rights that governments should never violate. These rights include the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. When a government fails to protect those rights, it is not only the right, but also the duty of the people to overthrow that government. In its place, the people should establish a government that is designed to protect those rights. Governments are rarely overthrown, and should not be overthrown for trivial reasons. In this case, a long history of abuses led the colonists to overthrow a tyrannical government.
The president of Kenya, Mwai Kibaki, is guilty of very specific abuses. The President has interfered with Kenyans Constitutional rights to their Fundamental rights and for a fair judicial system. Acting with other Constitutional Office bearers (the Chief Justice, the Registrar of the High Court, the Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Kenya, the Attorney General, and the Heads of all the disciplined forces of the Republic) the President has unconstitutionally sworn himself in as President and is in office illegally. Acting with Constitutional Office bearers, the President has instituted legislation S.25A without the consent of Parliament that will affect the people of Kenya without their consent. This legislation allows appointees by the President to forgive and negotiate with individuals who have looted Kenyan tax payers money in a non transparent manner. Acting with Constitutional Officers , the President has given shoot to Kill orders against the People of Kenya to quash dissent. Acting with Constitutional Officers, the President has removed their right to judicial trial by courts, and prevented Kenyans from trading freely. Additionally, the President and the Police Commissioner are guilty of outright destruction of Kenyan life and property by their refusal to protect the Kenyan and their Fundamental rights to property and life. The president acting with Constitutional Officers has allowed foreign mercenaries to come to Kenya (some from Uganda) and threaten the security of the citizens.
The People of Kenya have tried to reach a peaceful reconciliation of these differences with the President and the constitutional offices, but are being continually ignored. International Mediators who have appealed to the President have been similarly ignored. despite their shared concern with Kenyans for their just cause. After many peaceful attempts, Kenyans have no choice but to declare independence from these Constitutional office bearers. The new nation will be called the ————and will incorporate the people driven Constitution the BOMAS DRAFT as the new Constitution of Kenya. The new government under this Constitution will reserve the right to levy war, make peace, make alliances with foreign nations, conduct trade, and do anything else that nations do.
Kibaki will have to go and will go- by whatever means necessary. Kenya will not have a Dictator. Never Again. We must restore Democracy in our Country at whatever cost. This is our Patriotic Duty that will protect Kenyan generations from Tyranny.
January 24th, 2008
Last month Kenya had an election. Early vote counts suggested a major opposition victory. After some strange actions, the existing President was declared the victor. Protests, rioting, and ethnic strife ensued. I have been looking for an informative background article to post. I finally found this excellent article by Gérard Prunier, who has written an excellent book on the colonial roots of the Rwandan genocide:
Kenya: roots of crisis
by Gérard Prunier
To many people in the world – and even to many Kenyans themselves itself – the violence which followed the elections in Kenya on 27 December 2007 has come as a surprise. Unfortunately, it shouldn’t have. The combination of economic and ethno-political factors in Kenya had created an explosive mix which was just waiting for the right – or rather “wrong” – circumstances to explode. The 2002 elections had been a lucky near-miss; this time, the favourable configuration that operated then did not repeat itself.
Kenya’s “democratic” politics
To understand the Kenyan crisis in the context of its national, regional and global situation, it is necessary to examine the regime which followed independence in 1963. Britain’s withdrawal from the country had taken place amidst a considerable fear that the Mau Mau anti-colonial insurrection of 1952-1960 might impinge upon the politics of the new state and lead to further violence. Nothing of the sort happened – partly because of the elevation to the presidency of the leader of the nationalist movement Jomo Kenyatta, who once in power swerved from radical nationalism to conservative bourgeois politics.
Kenyatta was a Kikuyu (or Gikuyu) and the enigmatic Mau Mau movement had largely been a Kikuyu phenomenon (most of the 12,000 rebels or “suspects” killed by colonial forces in a brutal campaign were Kikuyu). This had caused the British wrongly to conclude that Kenyatta was the leader of the Mau Mau. But in any case, on becoming president Kenyatta – head of the Kenya African National Union (Kanu) in an effectively one-party state – embraced extreme tribalistic politics and packed the new “Kenyan” bourgeoisie he promoted with Kikuyu and members of related tribes such as the Embu and the Meru. At the time of his death in 1978 most of the country’s wealth and power was in the hands of the organisation which grouped these three tribes: the Gikuyu-Embu-Meru Association (GEMA).
Kenya has forty-eight tribes, with three – the Kikuyu, the Luo and the Luhyia – together representing almost 65% of the population. Meanwhile, the GEMA tribes during Kenyatta’s time (1963-78) composed perhaps 30% of Kenyans, almost all concentrated in the highlands of the central province. These figures meant that in order to square the ethno-political circle in Kenya, power-brokers had to forge deals between the three big groups and somehow relate to the shifting gaggle occupying the fourth corner.
In Kenyatta’s time the deal was simple: the Kikuyu and their smaller relatives, after making an agreement with the minority tribes, ran everything. The Luo, who eventually tried to challenge this ordering, were forcefully marginalised as the prudent Luhyia looked on. After Kenyatta died in 1978, his vice-president Daniel arap Moi – who was from the Kalenjin minority tribe – inherited the mantle of power on the understanding that he would not upset the arrangement designed to keep the two other large tribes (and particularly the Luo) out of power.
But Daniel arap Moi proceeded to use his new status to cleverly divide his Kikuyu allies (amongst them the man who would be his successor as president, Mwai Kibaki), so as progressively to sideline them. By 1986, Moi had concentrated all the power – and most of its attendant economic benefits – into the hands of his Kalenjin tribe and of a handful of allies from minority groups (see Peter Kimani, “A past of power more than tribe in Kenya’s turmoil”, 2 January 2008).
But Kikuyu ascendancy had been reined in only, not destroyed. Under Jomo Kenyatta, the Kikuyu – claiming martyr status for their sufferings during the Mau-Mau “emergency”, and relying on tacit government support – had spread beyond their traditional territorial homelands and “repossessed lands stolen by the whites” – even when these had previously belonged to other tribes. Thus Kikuyu “colonists” had fanned out all over Kenya, often creating strong rural antagonisms.
Kenyatta’s successor, Daniel arap Moi, used a consummate juggler’s skill to keep the ethno-political balance working in his favour. At the same time, the first two multi-party elections after other movements emerged to challenge Kanu (in 1992 and 1997) were occasions for carefully state-managed ethnic violence designed to achieve two objectives: keep the dangerous Kikuyu underfoot, and pit the Kalenjin’s minority allies against each other in order better to control them.
By the time of the 2002 election, however, the system had run its course: foreign donors were alienated, President Moi (having ruled for twenty-four years) was getting old, and a “democratic” opposition was gaining momentum. But if everybody agreed on the principle of ridding Kenya of its Kalenjin-based authoritarian state, the question of who and what would be the replacement remained open.
Moi had a brainwave: he thought that the best way for him to maintain his influence over politics after leaving the presidency would be to pick as the governing party candidate Kenyatta’s own son, Uhuru. This artful move, Moi calculated, would rally the Kikuyu behind a prestigious but empty symbol (Uhuru was not overly bright and his name spoke louder than his personality). But the stratagem backfired completely and the opposition united behind the veteran Kikuyu politician, Mwai Kibaki, thus creating a unique situation in which both leading candidates were Kikuyu.
In other ways, however, they were very different: one embodied the ghost of yesterday’s near-dictatorship while the other was seen as offering the hope of a democratic opening. This contrast felicitously de-ethnicised the election, turning it into a contest between the old and the new. At the time Raila Odinga, the leading Luo politician, tirelessly campaigned for Kibaki and deployed his tribal followers behind a man who – albeit a Kikuyu and a Kikuyu with a past – was seen as the candidate for change. The economic stagnation of previous years meant that many of the expectations that were invested in Kibaki were of an economic nature: Kibaki, it was hoped, would restart the economy and then proceed to share out its benefits more equally.
The Kibaki administration
Mwai Kibaki was elected president in December 2002 with over 62% of the vote. The country’s foreign backers were only too quick to salute the polls as “a triumph for democracy”. In a way they were right – the polls had been free and fair, and the candidate for change had been elected. But in another way this was a hasty form of wishful thinking because the ostensible “de-tribalisation” of the election had been due more to a series of fortuitous coincidences than to a real decline in the appeal of ethnic politics.
The key words in the campaign, however, had been “hope” and “change”, and to some extent the new Kibaki administration managed to deliver the goods. The economy did pick up and Kenya witnessed a spectacular economic recovery, largely based on Keynesian economic recipes and helped by a favourable international environment.
This can be illustrated by the annual rate of growth in 2002-07, which reveals a gradual improvement from -1.6 % in 2002 to 2.6% by 2004, 3.4 in 2005, and an estimated 5.5% in 2007. But this was only one side of the economic coin. Social inequalities also increased; the fruits of economic growth went disproportionately to the already well-off (and, among those, to the Kikuyu well-off); and corruption reached new heights, matching some of the excesses of the Moi years. When John Githongo, the man appointed by President Kibaki to fight corruption, blew the whistle in January 2005, he had to flee to Britain in fear of his life (see Michael Holman, “Kenya: chaos and responsibility”, 3 January 2007). Githongo is himself a Kikuyu, and his denunciation of a massive series of financial scandals in which hundreds of millions of dollars had vanished was seen as a betrayal of his tribe as well as of the government he served.
Moreover, the security situation in Kenya deteriorated steadily in these years, with the ordinary people bearing the brunt of a triple process:
* a growing wave of routine crime in urban areas
* rival agrarian claims leading to pitched battles between ethnic groups fighting for land, particularly around Mount Elgon and in Kisii
* a running feud between the police and the Mungiki sect, which left over 120 people dead in May-November 2007 alone.
Mungiki is a bizarre cross between pre-Christian Kikuyu neo-traditionalism and an extortionist gang. The sect ran protection rackets on the matatu (collective taxi) routes, helping it to prosper among the poorest urban neighbourhoods and among the landless-peasant squatters in central province; it also has a tradition of hiring its muscle-boys to political candidates during election campaigns. In 2002, the Mungiki had backed the losing Uhuru Kenyatta camp. This cost it dearly in terms of political clout, and it had desperately tried to recover the lost ground by intensifying its terroristic hold on the slum population and on the matatu owners.
The accumulating result of these various processes was a feeling of deep dissatisfaction – not so much with President Kibaki as a person but with his entourage, with his robbing cronies, and with his incapacity to sympathise and do something about the plight of poor Kenyans (made all the more shocking by the level of economic growth the country was enjoying). Raila Odinga, the candidate of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), was then able to capitalise on that frustration in a way that fused various types of motivation:
* ethnic (the Kikuyu have grabbed everything and all the other tribes have lost)
* political (Kibaki betrayed his promise for change)
* social (crime and violence are out of control)
* economic (what is the point of economic growth when it does not bring any benefits to the ordinary citizen).
As the electoral campaign neared its climax in December 2007, the ODM opposition enjoyed a widespread lead in opinion polls and seemed ready to sweep Kibaki’s Party of National Unity (PNU) out of power.
The December 2007 election
The election on 27 December 2007 was both a parliamentary and a presidential one. At the legislative level, 2,548 candidates from 108 parties were vying for 210 seats; at the presidential level, three candidates – the incumbent Mwai Kibaki , ODM leader Raila Odinga and former foreign minister Kalonzo Musyoka (who had split from the ODM) – were competing.
Everybody (including himself) knew that Kalonzo Musyoka had no chance of winning and that he was simply angling for the position of a strategic post-election ally who could sell his support to a probable minority victor in need of additional backing. Kalonzo Musyoka is a Kamba, and the Kamba – although closely related to the Kikuyu – had chosen the British camp during the Mau Mau emergency. This gives them a hybrid status in the Kenyan ethno-political landscape, in which they hold the capacity to swing either with the Kikuyu or against them.
The polls were a messy business for a number of reasons. The voters’ rolls had been poorly updated or at times not updated at all. Some dead people were still on the rolls and electors who had changed residence had not been properly struck off in one place and re-registered at their new address. The rules governing the help which could be given to illiterate voters (up to 80% of the electoral body in some remote constituencies) were poorly enforced. Foreign and national observers were not always given free access to the polling stations, and later to the ballots.
But all in all, the parliamentary segment of the election proceeded smoothly. The definitive results have not at the time of writing been officially posted, but a provisional tally (based on 181 out of 210 seats) is possible. Twenty-two parties won seats, although only four can be considered as “serious” (the eighteen others have between one and three MPs, sharing twenty-eight seats between them): :
* Raila Odinga’s ODM, which won ninety-two seats
* Mwai Kibaki’s PNU, which won thirty-four seats
* Kalonzo Musyoka’s splinter ODM-K, which won sixteen seats
* Uhuru Kenyatta’s Kanu, which won eleven seats.
The results speak for themselves: with 45% of the MPs, the opposition has a clear majority over the incumbent administration .
This is what makes the results of the presidential election definitely suspect. Kenya’s electoral commission (ECK) declared on 30 December that Kibaki had garnered 4,584,721 votes against 4,352,993 for his rival Raila Odinga, and immediately proceeded to inaugurate the incumbent president as the winner. This tight margin (little more than 230,000 votes, about 2.5% of those cast) is very fragile in view of the following facts.
In seventy-two of the constituencies, the figures on the ballot forms signed by the ECK returning officers and the agents of the candidates differ from the figures released by the national counting centre. At Ole Kalou constituency, for example, local ECK figures gave Mwai Kibaki 72,000 and Raila Odinga 5,000 out of 102,000 registered votes. But by the time the figures for that same constituency were released at the central level, Kibaki’s winning tally had jumped to 100,980 votes (i.e. 99% of the registered voters).
The pattern was repeated elsewhere. In Elmolo constituency, Kibaki was said by local ECK officials to have won by 50,145 votes, which then translated itself into 75,261 votes at the national level. In Kieni the discrepancy was between 54,337 (local level) and 72,054 (national tally). In various other constituencies (Lari, Kandara, Kerugoya) thousands more had “voted” in the presidential election than in the legislative one, even though the two ballots had been held concurrently .
All this points to a limited but widespread form of rigging which would not have had such catastrophic consequences had not the race been so closely contested. (After all, if several constituencies have probable rigging levels of 10,000-30,000 votes, there is no way a victory by 230,000 votes be considered solid.) On 1 January, Samuel Kivuitu – the respected chairman of the ECK – admitted : “I don’t know who won the election and I won’t know till I see the original records, which I can’t for now until the courts authorise it”.
It seems that what happened was that the Mwai Kibaki vote was artificially inflated rather than that Raila Odinga’s vote was tampered with. The evidence seems clear: even if gerrymandering had distorted the legislative vote vis-à-vis the presidential one (during the Moi years, the “enemy” Kikuyu constituencies had seen their demographic weight systematically eroded in this way), how could the pro-ODM trend at the parliamentary level turn itself into a contradictory support for the anti-ODM president? The possibility of such a split-personality vote is remote, as it requires that almost all those voting for minority parties would also have voted for Kibaki.
The bloody aftermath
The results of this manipulation have been disastrous. Almost as soon as the ECK hastily proclaimed Kibaki to be the winner, both the Nairobi slums and the western province exploded – the violence of the slum-dwellers reflecting their social frustration and the westerners’ arson-cum-machete attacks stemming from their hatred of the Kikuyu “colonists”. The political violence should thus be seen as both tribal and socio-economic; because, even if far from all Kikuyu are rich beneficiaries of the regime, many rich beneficiaries of the regime are Kikuyu. Such a situation recalls – especially for the Luo – the frustrations of the 1960s and 1970s.
The vote itself was primarily anti-establishment rather than crudely anti-Kikuyu, however: only six members of the cabinet survived the landslide, and many of the victims – including vice-president Moody Awori, planning minister Henry Obwocha, roads minister Simeon Nyachae, and tourism minister Moses Dzoro – were not Kikuyu. Even the few Luo or other westerners who were also PNU members lost their seats. Several Moi administration survivors – such as former minister Nicholas Biwott or Moi’s own son Gideon Moi – were also axed, often by nearly unknown candidates who took their seats with ease. This is one reason why the minority parties won so many seats: incumbency was a distinct liability and voters appeared ready to elect anybody who seemed ready to promote change.
It is when that trend towards long-awaited change appeared about to be blocked once more by the man who had already betrayed it after 2002 that violence exploded. The configuration of two relationships – Luo-Kikuyu, and Kikuyu with power – meant in the circumstances that it could not but be anti-Kikuyu. At the time of writing there have been at least 600 “official” deaths (as registered in hospitals and by other reliable sources); but this total is almost certainly an underestimate, especially if information from all the isolated rural areas where old scores are being settled were available.
While Luo have slaughtered Kikuyu settlers in their midst in the west, Mungiki thugs have rallied to the tribe and have been busy killing Luo in the Nairobi slums, hoping to ingratiate themselves with the big bosses of Kiambu, Nyeri and Murang’a. There are already as many as 250,000 internally-displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees (into Uganda). Factories are idle, many roads are closed, and food and humanitarian crises loom. In Uganda, Rwanda and the eastern DR Congo, the interruption of fuel supplies coming from Mombasa is threatening transport. Even Tanzania is beginning to feel the economic aftershocks of the disturbances. By a conservative estimate, the Kenyan economy is losing $30 million a day and the loss for the whole region – though anybody’s guess – must be far greater.
On 2 January 2008, President Kibaki announced that he was “ready to have a dialogue with the concerned parties”. This was a good start but, once more, the 76-year-old president seemed to be a prisoner of his past (and, perhaps, of his entourage). He stalled Desmond Tutu on the bishop’s arrival from South Africa in the effort to mediate (in contrast to Raila Odinga, who had immediately met Tutu); and when on 3 January attorney-general Amos Wako announced the creation of three committees designed to find a solution to the crisis (on peace and reconciliation, on the media aspects of the situation and on legal affairs), they were packed with burned-out politicians like Simeon Nyachae, Njenga Karume or George Saitoti, most of whom had just lost their seats in the election.
On 7 January, it is reported that Kibaki has invited Ghana’s president, John Kufuor, to re-engage in the mediation effort that was proposed as the violence first escalated; and that he has offered to create a government of national unity with the opposition which (an official statement says) “would not only unite Kenyans but would also help in the healing and reconciliation process”.
It is an artful departure from the boast of his precipitous acceptance speech of 30 December, when President Kibaki had declared: “Fellow Kenyans, you have given us a vote of confidence in the values and principles…that we began five years ago. You have chosen the leaders you wish to serve you during the next five years”.
In the circumstances, the claim was neither truthful nor realistic. It is unclear whether Mwai Kibaki’s latest manoeuvres represent a genuine shift of position or a tactical adjustment to desperate conditions. In any case, the creation of a government of national unity is now the sole, albeit painful compromise available if Kenya’s violence is to be contained and some sort of progress beyond this nightmare made. After that, a just and truthful reckoning with what has happened in Kenya must be attempted.
1 comment January 12th, 2008